Saturday, May 8, 2010

Significant Rock Art Find in Henan Province, China

From People's Daily Online (English)
1,000 ancient rock paintings found in east-central China
16:13, May 06, 2010

Archaeologist Ma Baoguang recently found some 1,000 hieroglyphic rock paintings in Yangce Town, Biyang County of east-central China's Henan province, acording to the report from

Ma went to Yangce with his students for an archaeological investigation on the eve of the May Day holiday. They spent over a week there and have found approximately 1,000 rock paintings of various types within an area of 5 square kilometers in villages such as Chenzhou, Tangligou, Xuzhuang, Leigutai, Anzhai, and Guogang.

Ma told reporters that he was deeply impressed by a large cambered stone which is 8 meters long and 3.7 meters wide. There are more than 500 small craters of different sizes on the surface of the stone and several relatively larger craters that are 13 to 20 centimeters in diameter and three to seven centimeters in depth. These craters are connected by various lines, forming a very large ancient diagram (as shown in the above picture).

"It is quite incredible that a large stone goat carries 'Hetu and Luoshu' (map of the Yellow River and the book of the Luo River) on its back," Ma said.

The neck and back of the stone goat are carved with many craters. This is the first time that a Juci Mountain-style rock painting has been found on a stone animal, which is extremely rare and valuable. [Which means that shortly after this story was published in China, the stone was probably bulldozed and hauled away in a truck in the middle of the night and will never be seen again.]

By People's Daily Online
If "Hetu and Luoshu" sound familiar to you, it's because part of the tale is the discovery of the first perfect 3x3 magic square on the back of a tortoise by one of China's legendary emperors.  The graphic above, is an old one from years ago, from Tony Smith's website, called the "magic square of Ho Tu," showing the arrangement of the magic square:

4 9 2

3 5 7
8 1 6

All rows and diagonals add to the same number, 15.  The Lo Shu magic square is the smallest perfect magic square ever discovered.

Significant "Copper Age" Find in Morocco

Archaeologists find 5000 year-old skeletons
May 07 2010 at 05:11PM

Kheisset, Morocco - Archaeologists in Morocco uncovered an ancient burial ground in a cave east of the capital Rabat, digging up human skeletons dating back 5000 years, they told reporters on Friday.

It is the first time that human skeletons dating from the end of the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age have been discovered in Morocco, Youssef Bokbot said, leading the team carrying out the digs.

"Seven skeletons and four graves will allow us to identify very precisely the funeral rites of the Beaker culture, a first", Bokbot said of the discovery in a cave near Khemisset, 80 kilometres from Rabat.

"The copper objects that we found confirmed humanity's evolution, the passage from stone to metal, a real transformation", the archaeologist added.

The digs, which began in 2006, were in a cave 18 kilometres from Khemisset. - Sapa-AFP

Rare Menhir Discovered in India

Story from the

Megalith menhir with rock engravings found
P. Samuel Jonathan
May 9, 2010

GUNTUR: A megalith menhir with rock engravings, called petroglyphs, carved on it has been discovered on an open field on the left bank of Nagaleuru, a tributary of the Krishna at Karampudi, 100 km from Guntur.

The menhir is a significant remnant of the pre-historic megalithic civilisation, when humans used signs to communicate, and dates back to 1000 B.C-300 B.C. Menhirs throw light on socio-ritualistic and ancestral beliefs. Archaeological evidence indicates they were also used as places of worship. (Image: T. Vijaya Kumar)

A freelance archaeologist, K. Venkateshwara Rao, based at Tenali, discovered the menhir on a vast stretch of open field, which is believed to be a necropolis (cemetery), adjacent to the Karampudi-Dachepalli Road.

The necropolis was first discovered during 1870-71 by J.S. Boswell, Collector, Krishna, himself a keen archaeologist.

The lone and imposing Menhir, a standing stone erected in memory of the dead ones, measures 19.2 inches in height, 4.2 inches in width and is 7 inches thick.

‘Rare discovery'

Mr. Rao, who traced the Menhir after years of research, calls it a “rare and unusual discovery and probably the first-of-its kind in the country.”

While menhirs have been found in parts of Khammam, Warangal, Madhumala in Mahaboobnagar and Medak districts in Andhra Pradesh and at Boorj Home in Jammu and Kashmir, it is the first time a menhir with petroglyphs was found.

The rock engravings are at a height of 8-9 feet from the ground. The upper row has four concentric circles with four small lines and a small pointed base. Archaeological reports point that the figures resemble the Muslim religious symbols ‘peer.' Below these circular figures, shapes of a crawling animal with an elongated head, probably that of a mongoose, a humped bull with V-shaped antlers and a peacock are found. In the last row, two men are seen carrying a pole on their shoulders and moving east (sun).

A close observation of the menhir shows that it is erected facing north-east, pointing to the fact that it could have been erected during ‘uttarayana punya kalam' considered an auspicious period.

While the circular figures in the shape of a human head on the upper row depict the ancestral and ritualistic worship of the pre-historic human race, the row below it has figures of domestic animals and show that pre-historic man co-existed with animals and also domesticated them. The engravings of a tiger show that man hunted for livelihood.

“The rare discovery is of great historical importance and could lead to further study on pre-historic civilisations in the country,'' Mr. Rao said.

The Forsyth Saga - Newton Style

My late dad told a family story on July 4, 1976, at a family gather celebrating the USA's bicentennial:

On the Belanger side of the family, great-grandmother's brother fought in the Civil War on the Union side.  During his tour of duty he took a little "vacation" and came home to the family farm, near Green Bay, Wisconsin.  He stayed on the farm getting "fattened up" and then went back to the fighting.

I wrote about this story in my diary all those years ago, and wondered back then whether it could be true, and marveling at the fact that I might actually have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.

Now I've been developing the Newton/Jablonski family tree.  I did not remember that particular old story, but pulled out my old diary because I knew I had asked my mom and dad questions about the family background that day so many years ago.  The bits and pieces of information it contained from that day were very helpful in getting started on my family research.

My great-great grandmother, Mathilda Forsyth (1861-1943), married Edward Belanger, Jr. (b. 1855)  They were the parents of Ida Belanger (1893-1962) and other children.

Ida Belanger was my grandmother.  She married Frank C. Newton (1894-1964).  They were the parents of my father, Francis John Newton (1922-2002), and other children.

I discovered that Mathilda Forsyth was one of several children of Jerome B. Forsyth (1822-1905) and Theotiste Matilda Brunette (1824-1904) who lived on a farm in Preble, Brown County, Wisconsin. Jerome B. and Theotiste married in 1841. 

Jerome B. was the son of Andrew Forsyth, b. 1795 in Longford, Ireland, and Susan Augarnel, b. about 1781 in the Netherlands or Belgium.  Andrew and Susan married in Belgium in 1816.  I do not have Andrew's service record as a member of the British Army, but I figure he must have fought in the Napoleonic Wars and perhaps he even fought at Waterloo.  And yes, it is not an error in Susan's birthdate.  She was 14 years older than her husband.  He was 21 at the time of their marriage; Susan was 35. 

In later years on United States census records, Andrew Forsyth - I call him Andrew the Soldier - listed his profession as soldier - with good reason.  After the marriage, Andrew was posted to Quebec, Canada. It was there that their first son - Andrew - was born in 1818. In the baptismal record, Andrew the Soldier is listed as a Colonel-___ something -- I did not recognize the abbreviation or title -- in the 37th Regiment, and Susan was listed as the mother.

I could not find a birth record for Jerome B. but I know he was Andrew the Soldier and Susan's son because they lived with him long enough to show up as part of his and Theotiste's household on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Censuses. Andrew, the elder son, and his smaller family, were nearby, as Andrew the Soldier had purchased 160 acres of pristine Wisconsin land in 1837, for which he paid cash.

Both Andrew and his younger brother Jerome B. were "musicians" in the U.S. Army in the 1830s, when they were only kids! After getting over my shock at such young kids being in the military, I realized - duh - that children have been part of the military for thousands of years.  They were drummers; they were flag-bearers; they played the pipes and horns.  In the United States, being enrolled as a musician in a military company or local militia was a badge of honor hotly compted for amongst young boys. 

Given his military background, I figure Andrew the Soldier got his sons involved in the military at an early age, and got them paying positions as musicians.  They would have earned on average, about $8 USD a month.  At some point, Andrew the Soldier mustered out of the British Army and moved to the United States, but I am not aware that he served any time with the United States armed forces or any state militia.  On U.S. census records, in his later years Jerome B. indicated that he had been born in Vermont.  I believe him, because if he had been born in Canada, particularly in French Quebec with their meticulous record-keeping, I would have found evidence of his birth there.  In contrast, the states in the USA kept rather crappy records of births, marriages, and deaths.
Son Andrew served one five year stint as a "musician" 14 Apr 1832 to 14 Apr 1837 with Co. G, 5th Regiment, U.S. Infantry.

Son Jerome B. served a stint as a young musician 11 Feb 1833 to 11 Feb. 1838 in Co. G, 36th Regiment, U.S. Infantry. He did a second stint as a musician 15 Jun 1838 to 15 June 1841, with Co. R, 5th Regiment, U.S. Infantry.

Andrew the Soldier moved to Wisconsin with son Andrew in 1837. They settle on the 160 acres outside Green Bay, Wisconsin and start farming. When Jerome B. finished his second Army stint, he also moved to Wisconsin.

Both sons married. Andrew married Anna (don't know her last name - her father was Irish and her mother was French) on 2 Aug 1840 in Brown County, Wisconsin. Jerome B. married Theotiste Matilda Brunette on 4 Feb. 1843 also in Brown County, Wisconsin.

Talk of civil war must have been in the air, along with talk of battles past by the menfolk of the Forsyth family before the fireplace late at night. Officially, the Civil War in the United States began on April 12, 1861, with the Conferderacy's attack on Fort Sumpter. Andrew the Soldier died at about age 66, on June 2, 1861.
Andrew the Soldier lived long enough to see one grandson, Jerome Forsyth, the only son of Andrew and Anna, enlist on February 10, 1861 in Co. H , 12th Regiment Infantry, Wisconsin Volunteers.  He was about 18 at the time. 

Andrew III mustered in on 2 Oct 1861. He died of some kind of disease at Leavenworth, Kansas on March 30, 1862. I do not know if he saw any action or if he even made it out of camp. Young Jerome Forsyth listed his parents, Andrew and Anna, as the beneficiaries of his pension, which I believe was paid to them during their lifetimes. The grieving parents, who had lost their only son, comforted each other as best they could and lo and behold, a gift from the Goddess, a new son - Benjamin - was born in 1864.

Andrew the Soldier's younger son, Jerome B., left behind all of his responsibilities and a very large and young family and enlisted himself! The first enlistment was on October 11, 1862, mustered in November 10, 1862, mustered out February 27, 1864. This enlistment was I believe with Co. F&S (Field and Staff), 34th Reg. Infantry, Wisconsin Volunteers. Jerome B.'s son, George W. Forsyth, who was perhaps 15, enlisted in Wisconsin Co. G, 31st Reg. Infantry, Wisconsin Volunteers, on October 23, 1862.  He mustered out on July 8, 1865.

During his first tour Jerome B. sustained a bullet wound to the left leg and was sent home. His first tour ended on February 27, 1864 and he immediately re-enlisted, this time in Co. G, 36th Reg. Infantry, Wisconsin Militia.  His second  tour began February 27, 1864 and ended not quite a year later, on  February 1, 1865, during which he was promoted to "Primary Musician" which is like a General of the Company's band, a very important position.

So, Andrew the Soldier's son, Jerome B., and his grandson, George W., survived the Civil War; unfortunately, his grandson, Andrew, did not.  What I do not know and have no way of confirming is whether it was great-grandmother Mathilda's brother, George W., who took unauthorized leave from the fighting - perhaps to accompany his wounded father home to the family farm in Wisconsin. 

But I think that old family story is probably right.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another "Lovers" Burial

I don't know how I missed this one, but I'm pretty sure I did because I have no recollection of it.  A Shang Dynasty discovery in March, 2010. Hmmm, after re-reading the article this seems to be a rehash of part of a 2004 discovery. But it's interesting. By the way, I do not for a second think these two are lovers - she probably went to the grave most unwillingly, and they certainly were not buried "hugging" each other as the article states!  Perhaps the Chinese have a different definition of hugging???

4,200 year-old grave excavation reveals eternal embrace
13:54, March 26, 2010

Loving couples always wish to die on the same day, and a couple who lived 4,200 years ago in the Sanxing Village of Mimou Township, Qingbaijiang District, fulfilled such a wish.

The Chengdu Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology recently discovered an ancient grave during an excavation on a large prehistoric cultural site, in which a couple was found laying and hugging each other. The bones of the "oldest" couple are clearly visible. Excavation work also discovered numerous exquisite stone vessels, porcelains, housing ruins as well as graves dating form China's ancient Shang Dynasty.

The Sanxingcun site, located in the sixth group of the Sanxing Village in Mimou Township, Qingbaijiang section of the Chengdu-Mianyang-Leshan inter-city railway line, covers an area of about 28,000 sqm, through which the Chengdu-Mianyang Highway runs.

In May 2004, the Chengdu Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology excavated part of the site's western side. Archaeologists believe that the Sanxingcun site was once a large ancient settlement in the Chengdu Plain in China's ancient Shang and Zhou dynasties. There have always been settlers on this land over the past 4,000-plus years.

Plenty of porcelains and stone vessels were excavated from the Sanxingcun site, such as flat-bottomed pots and jars with high handles that people in the period of the Sanxingdui culture used to hold items and food. An ivory pottery was found that exactly resembles a bird's head and is engraved with curved lines similar to the lines on the bronze vessels dug from the Sanxingdui Relics. Polished tools–stone axes, chisels, spears and knives still looked very fine and sharp.

By People's Daily Online

Shang Dynasty Complex Discovered

Large ancient Shang Dynasty site discovered in Shijiazhuang
14:00, May 07, 2010
A large ancient Shang Dynasty site was discovered for the first time in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province, also known as the "Old Haunt of the Shang Dynasty," the Shijiazhuang Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics announced.

Some of the excavated pits and unearthed pottery fragments were unveiled on May 5.

The archaeological site, named the Beihuzhuang Site, is located in Beihuzhuang Village, north of Li Village, a suburb of Shijiazhuang, said Duan Hongzhen, the deputy director of the Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics.

The discovery was an "accident," said Duan Hongzhen. At the very beginning, cultural relic experts could not determine the specific age of the site until excavation began.

Judging from the stratigraphical age – a determination based on the position of objects within rock layers – of the unearthed articles, cultural relic experts determined that the Beihuzhuang Site is from the Shang Dynasty with a history of 3,600 to 4,000 years.

According to estimates, the area of the site is about 150,000 square meters, and 5,000 or 6,000 square meters will be preserved.

At present, 600 square meters have been excavated and the excavation area is expected to reach 2,000 square meters. A great deal of pottery fragments, tools for production and daily life like stone scoops and bone awls and a pair of complete staghounds have been found at the site.

By People's Daily Online

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Neanderthals/Humans - What's the Difference - Really?

If "Neanderthals" and so-called "modern Humans" could breed successfully, just how much difference are we talking about in their DNA sequences?  As I understand it, modern humans and chimpanzees are the most closely-related surviving primates on the planet today - with some - what is that figure? - 2%? - differential in their DNA sequences, and yet I haven't read of a single successful cross-mating of humans and chimps.  Is there something you aren't telling us, scientists?

And yet - lo and behold, like Manna falling from Heaven - now new DNA evidence reveals what may be something like the actual truth!  "Neanderthals" and so-called "modern Humans" interbred  and interbred enough for the "Neanderthals'" DNA to be present in modern-day people.  Oh my!

Hmmmm.....  Somehow, I feel very - justified.  LOL!  All it took was taking samples of the correct DNA  (from modern people instead of from the bones of people who died out 40,000 and more years ago, duh!) and comparing their DNA sequences to those of the few Neanderthal sequences we have on record. 

This is a follow-up to my post of yesterday, which provides much more information.  I am copying it here in its entirety because (1) it is very important and (2) despite complaints I have received by some people on going far beyond "fair use" terms in copying articles, it is an envitable fact of internet life that articles disappear after a certain amount of time, and unless the contents are copied and saved, that articles are here today and gone tomorrow, and then they are gone forever.  I discovered this tonight, much to my sadness, when I was looking for the November, 2002 article from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the deaths of veterans, in which my late father, John Francis Newton, was featured.  He died on November 3, 2002.  So people, don't bitch and moan at me about my copying of articles in full at this blog.  I do it for a very important reason - to preserve information - available free of charge - to whomever is interested in reading it.

From BBC News
Neanderthal genes 'survive in us'
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News
Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Thursday, 6 May 2010 19:02 UK

Many people alive today possess some Neanderthal ancestry, according to a landmark scientific study.

The finding has surprised many experts, as previous genetic evidence suggested the Neanderthals made little or no contribution to our inheritance.

The result comes from analysis of the Neanderthal genome - the "instruction manual" describing how these ancient humans were put together.

Between 1%-4% of the genomes of people in Eurasia come from Neanderthals.

But the study confirms living humans overwhelmingly trace their ancestry to a small population of Africans who later spread out across the world.

The most widely-accepted theory of modern human origins - known as Out of Africa - holds that the ancestors of living humans (Homo sapiens) originated in Africa some 200,000 years ago.

A relatively small group of people then left the continent to populate the rest of the world between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. [Okay - whatever. A tiny group of people manages to conquer an entire world and all competed "sapiens" for territory. Sounds very 19th century to me. Guess we haven't progressed all that much, science-wise, have we?]

While the Neanderthal genetic contribution - found in people from Europe, Asia and Oceania - appears to be small, this figure is higher than previous genetic analyses have suggested.

"They are not totally extinct. In some of us they live on, a little bit," said Professor Svante Paabo, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Professor Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at London's Natural History Museum, is one of the architects of the Out of Africa theory. He told BBC News: "In some ways [the study] confirms what we already knew, in that the Neanderthals look like a separate line.

"But, of course, the really surprising thing for many of us is the implication that there has been some interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans in the past."

John Hawks, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, told BBC News: "They're us. We're them.

"It seemed like it was likely to be possible, but I am surprised by the amount. I really was not expecting it to be as high as 4%," he said of the genetic contribution from Neanderthals.

The sequencing of the Neanderthal genome is a landmark scientific achievement, the product of a four-year-long effort led from Germany's Max Planck Institute but involving many other universities around the world.

The project makes use of efficient "high-throughput" technology which allows many genetic sequences to be processed at the same time.

The draft Neanderthal sequence contains DNA extracted from the bones of three different Neanderthals found at Vindija Cave in Croatia.

Retrieving good quality genetic material from remains tens of thousands of years old presented many hurdles which had to be overcome.

The samples almost always contained only a small amount of Neanderthal DNA amid vast quantities of DNA from bacteria and fungi that colonised the remains after death.

The Neanderthal DNA itself had broken down into very short segments and had changed chemically. Luckily, the chemical changes were of a regular nature, allowing the researchers to write software that corrected for them.

Writing in Science journal, the researchers describe how they compared this draft sequence with the genomes of modern people from around the globe.

"The comparison of these two genetic sequences enables us to find out where our genome differs from that of our closest relative," said Professor Paabo.

The results show that the genomes of non-Africans (from Europe, China and New Guinea) are closer to the Neanderthal sequence than are those from Africa.

The most likely explanation, say the researchers, is that there was limited mating, or "gene flow", between Neanderthals and the ancestors of present-day Eurasians.

This must have taken place just as people were leaving Africa, while they were still part of one pioneering population. This mixing could have taken place either in North Africa, the Levant or the Arabian Peninsula, say the researchers.

The Out of Africa theory contends that modern humans replaced local "archaic" populations like the Neanderthals.

But there are several variations on this idea. The most conservative model proposes that this replacement took place with no interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals.

Unique features

Another version allows for a degree of assimilation, or absorption, of other human types into the Homo sapiens gene pool.

The latest research strongly supports the Out of Africa theory [so far - where did Neanderthal come from?], but it falsifies the most conservative version of events.

The team also identified more than 70 gene changes that were unique to modern humans. These genes are implicated in physiology, the development of the brain, skin and bone.

The researchers also looked for signs of "selective sweeps" - strong natural selection acting to boost traits in modern humans. They found 212 regions where positive selection may have been taking place.

The scientists are interested in discovering genes that distinguish modern humans from Neanderthals because they may have given our evolutionary line certain advantages over the course of evolution.

The most obvious differences were in physique: the muscular, stocky frames of Neanderthals contrast sharply with those of our ancestors. But it is likely there were also more subtle differences, in behaviour, for example.

Dr Hawks commented that the amount of Neanderthal DNA in our genomes seemed high: "What it means is that any traits [Neanderthals] had that might have been useful in later populations should still be here.

"So when we see that their anatomies are gone, this isn't just chance. Those things that made the Neanderthals apparent to us as a population - those things didn't work. They're gone because they didn't work in the context of our population."

Researchers had previously thought Europe was the region where Neanderthals and modern humans were most likely to have exchanged genes. The two human types overlapped here for some 10,000 years.

The authors of the paper in Science do not rule out some interbreeding in Europe, but say it was not possible to detect this with present scientific methods.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ancient "Blue" Back in the News

Prior post - did the old world and new world "blue" hues have something in common?  Use the Goddesschess blog search feature, type in the word "blue" (without the quotes), and a whole bunch of interesting articles will appear to give you background on this fascinating, ancient color.

In the news today - ta da!  "Egyptian Blue Found in Romanasque Altarpiece" 

Was it a case of old knowledge, carefully preserved, being put to use?  Or was it a case of "everything old is new again" and an ancient technology being re-invented/re-discovered in the 12th century by the artisans of the period?

Egyptian blue found in Romanesque altarpiece
05 May 2010 Plataforma SINC

A team of researchers from the University of Barcelona (UB) has discovered remains of Egyptian blue in a Romanesque altarpiece in the church of Sant Pere de Terrassa (Barcelona). This blue pigment was used from the days of ancient Egypt until the end of the Roman Empire, but was not made after this time. So how could it turn up in a 12th Century church?

Egyptian blue or Pompeian blue was a pigment frequently used by the ancient Egyptians and Romans to decorate objects and murals. Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 AD), this pigment fell out of use and was no longer made. But a team of Catalan scientists has now found it in the altarpiece of the 12th Century Romanesque church of Sant Pere de Terrassa (Barcelona). The results of this research have just been published in the journal Archaeometry. (Image: Retablo de la iglesia de Sant Pere y sección estratigráfica del azul egipcio. Imágenes: Patrimoni-UB.)
"We carried out a systematic study of the pigments used in the altarpiece during restoration work on the church, and we could show that most of them were fairly local and 'poor' - earth, whites from lime, blacks from smoke - and we were completely unprepared for Egyptian blue to turn up", Mario Vendrell, co-author of the study and a geologist from the UB's Grup Patrimoni research group, told SINC.

The researcher says the preliminary chemical and microscopic study made them suspect that the samples taken were of Egyptian blue. To confirm their suspicions, they analysed them at the Daresbury SRS Laboratory in the United Kingdom, where they used X-ray diffraction techniques with synchrotron radiation. It will be possible to carry out these tests in Spain once the ALBA Synchrotron Light Facility at Cerdanyola del Vallés (Barcelona) comes into operation.

"The results show without any shadow of a doubt that the pigment is Egyptian blue", says Vendrell, who says it could not be any other kind of blue pigment used in Romanesque murals, such as azurite, lapis lazuli or aerinite, "which in any case came from far-off lands and were difficult to get hold of for a frontier economy, as the Kingdom Aragon was between the 11th and 15th Centuries".

A possible solution to the mystery

The geologist also says there is no evidence that people in Medieval times had knowledge of how to manufacture this pigment, which is made of copper silicate and calcium: "In fact it has never been found in any mural from the era".

"The most likely hypothesis is that the builders of the church happened upon a 'ball' of Egyptian blue from the Roman period and decided to use it in the paintings on the stone altarpiece", Vendrell explains.

The set of monuments made up by the churches of Sant Pere, Sant Miquel and Santa María de Terrassa are built upon ancient Iberian and Roman settlements, and the much-prized blue pigment could have remained hidden underground for many centuries. "But only a little of it, because this substance couldn't be replaced - once the ball was all used up the blue was gone", concludes Vendrell.
I may be wrong about this, but during this same period, weren't cathedral builders throughout Europe using blue in their incredible stained-glass creations?  If they had figured out the formula (more or less) for creating blue glass, could they not have extrapolated from that to figure out a combination of minerals to create a blue pigment?  The artisans of the period may have been "uneducated" - so they didn't go to university, hoo ha.  But they had a wealth of experience, common sense and an amazing ability to figure out solutions to problems as them came across them.  In the guilds this "data base" of knowledge was shared amongst the brethren of the workers, from the least to the greatest.  I find it difficult to believe that in the 12th century European cathedral builders were still depending upon discovering ancient hords of "Egyptian blue" or carefully doling out in fractions carefully preserved "Egyptian blue" hunks of pigment from 1000 years before! 

Of course the people back then were as curious as we are today - perhaps more so because they had nothing to distract them such as 24-7 video, cell phones, text messages, and all the stupid inanity that passes for "culture" today.  Would certain contingents of artisans not have been assigned to work unendingly to discover the secrets of "Egyptian blue?"

And what about medieval potters?  Did they not have blue hues?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Family Civil War Story Uncovered

Oh this is so stupid - I should have been in bed hours ago.  Right now I feel about 95% human again, but tomorrow morning - ha! 

But tonight I just couldn't stop tracking down bits and pieces of a family Civil War story that I had recorded in an old diary on - get this - July 4, 1976 (USA's Bicentennial celebration).

Too long to go into tonight, and still too many details to hammer down.  I will write it here when it is ready.  I already sent the gist of things to Rose, who is helping me research at  She is married to a relative of mine from the Belanger side of the family and has been researching for much longer than I! 

I'm very tired right now, and very emotional.  It's a sad story, although I expect that some people may think it's quite heroic.

I'll get back to blogging tomorrow, (hopefully) now that I'm feeling almost back to my old self.  I'm even going to try sleeping in my actual bed tonight, rather than upright in my recliner.  I have the windows open - it warmeed to way past 80 degrees F today and damn, it was HOT when I got out of work this evening.  Time to enjoy a scrub-up and then zzzzz'sss.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Women's Grand Prix - Nalchik

The Week in Chess provides a link to a report in The Independent that there has been a terrorist explosion in Nalchik.  A bomb exploded in a VIP box during horse races.  Bet that story doesn't make the FIDE coverage.  Smirk.

3rd Women GP Nalchik 2010 (Nalchik RUS)
Mon 26th Apr 2010 - Fri 7th May 2010 - Official Site

Standings after R7:
Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED Pts.
1 5 GM Kosintseva Tatiana 2524 RUS 6
2 8 GM Hou Yifan 2570 CHN 5
3 6 GM Cramling Pia 2523 SWE 4½
12 GM Zhu Chen 2476 QAT 4½
5 1 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2479 GEO 4
6 3 GM Koneru Humpy 2622 IND 3½
7 2 WGM Kovanova Baira 2385 RUS 3
7 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2503 ARM 3
11 WGM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2428 MGL 3
10 9 GM Zhao Xue 2490 CHN 2½
11 4 WIM Yildiz Betul Cemre 2244 TUR 2
12 10 IM Danielian Elina 2491 ARM 1

President's Cup Baku (AZE) 2010

Official website.

Kamsky defeated Polgar in the last round to move into third place after tie-breaks:

The last round of rapid chess "President Cup" started in Park Inn Hotel. Tomorrow a blitz chess competition with 16 players will take place at 20:00 in the same hotel. The matches of the last round of rapid chess resulted as the followings:

Gata Kamski - Judit Polgar 0.5 - 0.5
Teymur Rajabov - Gadir Huseynov 1 - 0
Emil Sutovski - Vladimir Kramnik 0 - 1
Rauf Mammadov - Shahriyar Mammadyarov 0 - 1

After winning the match against Judit Polgar, Gata Kamski now has 5 points. Shahriyar Mammadyarov was also the winning part of the match against Gadir Huseynov. Shakh was playing with black figures and won after the 30th move and now he is sharing the leadership with Gata Kamski and Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik won the game, with black figures, against Emil Sutovski. Whites were the winning figures in the match of Teymur Rajabov and Gadir Huseynov. That is how ended the "President Cup" of 2010. Now, because there are three leaders in the tournament, their elo was calculated to determine the winner of the tournament. Vladimir Kramnik is the winner of the tournament for his additional factors. Shahriyar Mammadyarov is following him with the second place, and the absolute leader of the last rounds Gata Kamski is the third in the tournament.

Final standings:

1. Vladimir Kramnik - 5
2. Shahriyar Mammadyarov - 5
3. Gata Kamski - 5
4. Teymur Rajabov - 3.5
5. Emil Sutovski - 3
6. Judit Polgar - 3
7. Rauf Mammadyarov - 2
8. Gadir Huseynov - 1.5

Chinese Traders Ignored Imperial Ban

Well, duh! LOL! From the time the idea of "trade" first took hold I'm sure merchants have been flouting laws of every conceivable type from pre-history right down to today. 

Evidence shows merchants flouted imperial trade ban
Updated: 2010-05-02 18:12

GUANGZHOU - Archaeologists working on the wreck of a 400-year-old merchant vessel off south China have found evidence that Chinese merchants probably flouted bans on foreign trade at the time.

The salvage team has recovered more than 800 pieces of antique porcelain and copper coins from the ancient ship off the coast of Guangdong province, said the provincial cultural relics bureau Sunday.

Archaeologists believe the ship, which sank in the Sandianjin waters off Nan'ao county, Shantou city, may have been carrying 10,000 pieces of blue-and-white porcelain, mostly made during Emperor Wanli's reign (1573-1620) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Some big porcelain bowls found in the vessel, dubbed "Nan'ao-1, " were probably made for foreign trade as they were not commonly used in Chinese daily life at that time, they believe.

The find is particularly interesting as the administration of Wanli had imposed a ban on sea trade.

Guangdong was a major center for the sea trade in ancient China.

Sheet copper and coins found during the salvage operation indicated the ship might have been smuggling copper too, as the export of copper was also banned at the time, said Sun Jian, head of the salvage team.

The Ming Dynasty restricted private sea trade to deter piracy, which had imposed huge hardships on legitimate sea traders, and ensure maritime security along Chinese coastal areas.

Many ancient Chinese dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty, banned the export of copper as the metal was precious and mainly used to manufacture coins, a major currency, in ancient China.

The team also recovered equipment that looked like cannon, but it was not unusual for ancient merchants to arm their ships against pirates, said Sun.

More than 20 experts started the salvage operation April 9 and would finish in another 90 days if weather conditions permitted, he said.

The excavation was scheduled to begin on September 26, 2009, but was postponed due to severe weather conditions, including typhoons and cold snaps.

Archaeologists have been saying they believe the wreck will shed new light on China's foreign trade at the time.

Local fishermen found the wreck, estimated to be about 25 meters long and seven meters wide, in May 2007 buried in silt 27 meters underwater and about 5.6 nautical miles from Shantou city.

Spectacular Viking Find in Irish Burial Dave

The article's title calls the discovery "bizarre" but it's not, really.  The article itself suggests one possible way the necklace got into the burial - through trade; another could be by purchase or, this is the the one my romantic side prefers, it was part of a dowery of a much-beloved Viking wife who moved away from her home and her family for the man she loved.

From The Irish

Archaeologists baffled over ‘bizarre’ Viking discovery
By Gordon Deegan
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A TEAM of Irish archaeologists is puzzled by the "bizarre" discovery of a 1,150-year-old Viking necklace in a cave in the Burren.

Besides being the largest by far – up to 12 times longer than previous finds – the team is puzzled by how such a "high-status" Viking treasure came to lie in the Burren, an area never settled by the Norsemen.

The site where the necklace was found at Glencurran Cave was described by team leader Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo IT as a "treasure trove" for archaeologists.

The necklace is one of a number of major items discovered in the dig, funded by the Department of the Environment and the Royal Irish Academy.

Dr Dowd said yesterday: "The necklace is the largest Viking necklace to have been found in Ireland. Normally, Vikings necklaces that have been found have five to six glass beads, but this has 71 glass beads covered with gold foil."

A leading expert on Irish cave archaeology, Dr Dowd was puzzled by how such a "stunning piece of jewellery" came to rest in the Burren.

"There is no parallel for it in Ireland and it is puzzling on a number of fronts," he said.

Dr Dowd said that the Vikings never settled in the Burren, but that Limerick was one of the Irish cities that they did settle in and speculated that the necklace – dating from the mid 9th century – could have been the result of a trade with Vikings from Limerick and Gaelic chieftains in the Burren.

Already, the skeletal remains of a two to four-year-old child that were placed in the cave in the Bronze Age, about 3,500 years ago, were subject to ancient DNA analysis

In all, the excavation has discovered the remains of seven adults, two children and one baby. A 10,000-year-old bear shoulder bone, a scapula, has also been found.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Human Story Just Got More Interesting

One of the things about current DNA theory that is counter-intuitive to me is that human groups got less diverse the further away from Africa they moved.  One would think that as more people around the world had the opportunity to meet and breed our DNA signatures would get more complicated, not less complicated.  But the theory says that as people moved out of Africa (assuming the out of Africa theory is correct) and slowly travelled across and then filled the world, their DNA got less diverse. 

This story definitely contradicts that view and for a startling reason - well, startling to some people.

Story from Live Science
Humans Interbred with Neanderthals, Study Suggests
By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer
posted: 29 April 2010 08:24 am ET

Humans today could be part Neanderthal, according to a new study that found our ancestors interbred with an extinct hominid species some millennia ago.

Neanderthals walked the Earth between about 130,000 and 30,000 years ago. While they co-existed with modern humans for a while, eventually they went extinct and we didn't. There has been intense scientific debate over how similar the two species were, and whether they might have mated with each other.

"The issue has been highly contentious for some time," said University of New Mexico genetic anthropologist Keith Hunley.

Last week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, N.M., Hunley and colleagues presented the results of a new study that found evidence for interbreeding between modern humans and some other extinct ancient human species – either Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) or another group such as Homo heidelbergensis. The research was first reported by NatureNews.

The researchers looked at DNA samples from humans living today, and found signs of leftover Neanderthal genes introduced from this interbreeding. They looked at genetic data from almost 2,000 people around the world, and calculated how much genetic variation existed between samples. The results indicate that some extinct group of hominids mixed their genes with ours at two points in history, Hunley said.

One period of interbreeding probably occurred shortly after Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago. The researchers found an excess of genetic diversity in all modern people except Africans, suggesting that the influx of Neanderthal-like DNA came after the exodus from Africa.

A second period of interbreeding is suggested by the fact that the researchers measured even more genetic diversity among people of Oceanic descent – people from Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and other Pacific islands.

"I think we show there's clear evidence in the genome of living people of this mixture," Hunley told LiveScience. "The fact that there's a clear signal implies that there was some significant amount" of interbreeding, he said.

This work is the first time scientists have used DNA from living people to look at this question, Hunley said.

In an earlier study, Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis found suggestions of Neanderthal and modern human interbreeding by comparing ancient bone fossils from the two species.

Trinkaus said the new work fits into his findings, though he hasn't reviewed the details yet since Hunley's paper has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. "The conclusion makes sense and fits with the majority of the data available," Trinkaus said.

Another anthropologist who has studied Neanderthal anatomy agreed.

"I have been arguing for this position throughout my career, ever since I began to study Neandertals and other populations," said Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan. "It has always seemed clear that some Neandertal anatomy appears in living populations."

Not everyone, though, will be easily convinced yet, Hunley said.

On the Mend

I'm on the road to feeling human again, thank Goddess!  The antibiotics are slowly doing their job.  Yesterday the second half of the day I couldn't stand having my glasses on - which really puts a nix on things I can do since I'm pretty much blind without them!  Couldn't read, couldn't really work on the computer, I watched some t.v.  I felt like I had a vise around the top of my head most of yesterday; fortunately, that disappeared today.  My face is sitll tender from the swollen sinuses, and my glands are WAY swollen; both ears are still plugged. 

But there has been progress.  I sat out in the sun for 20 minutes last evening, and I actually felt steady enough this morning to work outside for a couple of hours (it was nice enough to do so).  After about 5 minutes of raking and later pushing the lawnmower around, I broke a sweat and could feel the mucus breaking up in my chest and head and started coughing more easily (i.e., without hurting myself).  So, the Nurse Practitioner was right when she said that exercise would help loosen the mucus and phlegm.  Sucking in hot moist air helps too, but I can't stand in the shower for more than 10 minutes, it drives me batty.  A couple of times this afternoon I also spent some time wrapped up in a blanket sitting on the deck letting the sun bake me a bit :) 

So - back to the office tomorrow.  I'll see if I can get a full day in.

The only good thing to come out of this has been a 6 pound weight loss - in six days.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Saturday Outing

Not getting any better after four days of increasing and worse symptoms (I've never had what I considered a common illness that didn't start to get better after a couple of days), on Saturday morning I couldn't stand it any more and decided to myself get to a walk-in clinic.  I found one within reasonable bus distance and headed out - inside a Walgreens.  I got there a mere 10 minutes after it opened, but there were already two people ahead of me.  From the look and sound of them, they had something similar to me!  I had to wait about 1.5 hours before the Nurse Practitioner got to my name on the list. 

While I waited (mostly with my eyes closed because my eyes were leaking pus and tears like there was no tomorrow and they were sensitive to light under my sunglasses), I sat quietly wheezing, occasionally hacking a cough, like my fellow sufferers in sickness, huddling and shivering inside my jacket because the store's air conditioning was cold despite the warm sunny day outside.

While waiting, I got to scope out the action - there was nothing else to do in any event; even if I had felt like it, my eyes were bothering me so much I would not have been able to read.  There was a receptionist/helper who was very nice.  After the patients checked in and filled out information on a computer screen she called us into an office one by one; I was asked for and presented my insurance card and photo ID and gave a brief description of my symptoms.

Shortly after I arrived I got a glimpse of the NP who came out of a different office.  I instantly did not like her. There was no reason for me to have that immediate negative reaction to her, but there it was.  Perhaps she was giving off some kind of vibration -- anyway, she barked something at the receptionist/helper and then disappeared into her office again.  Some time later an older woman came in and signed in to the computer, and then she had her turn with the receptionist/helper.  After that, the woman and a friend sat in two empty seats next to me; I did not want to eavesdrop but it was rather difficult not to!  She said to her friend that the receptionist was going to check if the NP could get in her quickly because she only had to have her blood pressure checked.

I thought - good luck, lady.  And was a little miffed that she thought because her problem wouldn't take as long to "fix" she could jump ahead of very obviously sick people who were there before she was.  Sometime later the receptionist/helper was getting reamed out by the NP in the NP's office - everyone could hear because she left the office door open.  I felt sorry for her - but she shouldn't have asked for such a thing in the first place!  Shortly afterward the receptionist/helper came out and called the blood pressure lady over to her and apologized and said the NP could not take her out of turn and she would have to wait, and it would be about 2 hours.  So the blood pressure lady left, saying she would come back in 2 hours.  I wonder if she got her blood pressure taken yesterday???

Eventually it was my turn and I was ushered into the presence of the NP.  I had two overwhelming impressings - she was built like Jabba the Hutt and resembled the toad-like illustrations of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter books.  Her eyes were greatly magnified by her horn-rimmed glasses and she needed a good dye job on her hair - I do not understand women who think that grey-streaked hair is at all attractive.  It's not!  So we go through the routine, she asked a lot of questions and I answered as best I could. She was so large she could not get close to me, which led to a problem.  She took my blood pressure, then she poked inside my ears with an ear thingy.  She was closer to the right ear and she did okay with that one, but even though I turned my head so she could look into the left ear, because of the angle of the table I was sitting on she couldn't get close enough, so she sort of poked at me hurting the inside of my ear (which was already sensitive) and I'm sure she didn't see much of anything.  Then she looked at my eyes with one of those light things, and then she did the tongue depressor "say ahhhh" thing and frowned when I couldn't muster much of an "ahhhh", which she had me do again - LOUDER.  I hope I gave her a good blast of sick breath and spittle.

By this point my head was pounding and I was in a lot of pain, besides shivering with the recurrent fever that had plagued me since Tuesday evening.  I had experienced off and on headaches which seemed to go away after taking some aspirin, but now the left half of my face hurt terribly including inside the ear (which she had hurt with her probe thing).  Classic symptoms of a bad sinus infection, so I wasn't surprised when that is what she diagnosed in addition to pink eye.  Soon I was out of there, prescriptions in hand.  I made great bus connections and was home round trip in about 3.5 hours - more than 2 of which were spent at the clinic.

I downed the dosage of the prescribed antiobiotic, left the eyedrops for later, and headed toward the recliner where I zonked out for a couple of hours and then dozed off and on, for a couple more.  About 5 p.m. I got up long enough to make a cup of coffee and figured I should eat something (my appetite had totally disappeared, not a good sign since I am almost always ready and able to eat).  I had one slice of rye bread with butter and chunky style peanut butter.  Then I went back to the recliner!

I could feel the slow changes in my body as the antibiotics went to work attacking the infection inside my sinuses.  The first think I noticed was that the coughs, which still hurt like the dickens and sound ghastly, were now producing a lot more stuff.  The facial pain subsided somewhat (but is still present, 24 hours later) and I could "feel" and occasionally hear some "clicking"-like sounds inside my head which I figure had something to do with the sinus pressure slowly going down.  My breathing got less wheezy too, probably because less mucus was sliding down the back of my throat.  It was nice to actually get some sleep, too!

About 6:30 I was tempted outdoors by the bright sun streaming through the patio door.  I wrapped myself in the down blanket and plopped myself in a deck chair.  The sun was warm and strong and felt good on my face.  It was probably coincidental that going out on the deck triggered a coughing fit that scared the crap out of my squirrels - I sounded like a barking dog!  Or perhaps the extra heat from the sun was what I needed, along with the little movement to get from the recliner to the deck.  It was a productive cough, a lot of gunk came up and I felt better afterward, even though my chest hurt, ouch!  I stayed out for about 20 minutes and it was warm enough to keep the patio door open until after sun down.  I retired back to the recliner and watched an absolutely gorgeous sunset through filmy curtains.  Then I slept some more.  At some point I moved upstairs to the bed and experimented with different levels of pillow support.  For a luscious 30 minutes before I got up this morning, I was actually laying almost flat on the mattress with my head only supported by my two squishy feather pillows.  It felt like Heaven!

So, I've been mostly sleeping in short bursts since I got back from the clinic yesterday about 12:35 p.m.  Today I got up about 5:30 a.m. and actually read the paper, then took a nice long nap, then I ate something, then I had another nap.  I've got a load of laundry in right now and wanted to blog about Jabba/Dolores.

It looks like I am the only person left in the neighborhood who has not yet cut her lawn.  It is decidedly shaggy looking.  At this point, however, I do not think I am up to firing up the lawnmower!  In fact, I hear that recliner calling my name - time for another nap.
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